Henrica Bresil, 15, loved her Outward Bound adventure camp so much this summer that she left her house in Philadelphia every day at 6 a.m. to get there. Then she hopped on a public transit bus and commuted as much as two hours each way.
When Henrica, a student in the A Better Chance program, returned to Andover High School this fall, she was surprised to learn that her adopted hometown shares a special connection to Outward Bound.
Josh Miner, the founder of the U.S. Outward Bound program, lived and worked in Andover, and his widow, Phebe Stevens Miner, still lives practically a stone's throw from Henrica's school and ABC house on Main Street.
Phebe Miner and Henrica met for the first time last week, on Thursday, Sept. 25. As they chatted, laughed and sipped iced tea, a portrait of Josh, who died in 2002, hung over a nearby fireplace.
Henrica's favorite part of Outward Bound was rock climbing, she said. She wanted to reach the top even after scraping her hand.
"I would not let them take me off that rock, despite bloody knuckles," said Henrica, laughing.
Henrica, pulling the sleeves of her pink hooded sweatshirt over her wrists, had a shy demeanor at first, but warmed up as Phebe began to ask her about her siblings, school and her summer at Outward Bound.
She spent three weeks with teenagers she had never met before, having the time of her life sleeping in a tree house and doing an eight-mile canoe paddle.
"Even now, I still talk to all of these people," said Henrica of the friends she made.
"I wish my husband were here, hearing you," said Phebe.
Henrica is a Philadelphia native who attends Andover High School through the ABC program, which sponsors minority students from under-performing urban schools to top public and private schools around the country.
Janis Hill, a member of the Andover ABC board of directors, helps ABC students find summer programs or camps, and matched Henrica with Outward Bound in Philadelphia. Philadelphia's summer "Adventure Leadership Program" included one week of a high ropes course, one week of rock climbing and one week of canoeing and survival skills.
"Both ABC and Outward Bound have a similar vision and mission of helping young people achieve their potential, thereby coming productive members of their community, in a broad sense," said Hill. "It's helping people find within themselves the strength they have, finding their potential. There's really a common bond between these organizations."
Henrica is in her sophomore year at AHS, tutors students in math and has revived a dormant martial arts club. Henrica has a black belt in tae kwon do.
"I'm pretty harmless though," said Henrica, explaining her martial arts prowess to Miner. "Anyone is invited (to the AHS club). It's not competitive. It's more fun that way."
"Good for you," exclaimed Miner.
Miner talked about her husband and how he started the Outward Bound program in Colorado in the 1960s, after meeting and befriending Kurt Hahn, the founder of Outward Bound in Scotland.
She broke into a smile as she told Henrica that Josh Miner broke his leg the first summer he was director of Outward Bound.
"I could tell you millions and millions of stories," Phebe Miner said.
Now, more than 50 years later, the U.S. Outward Bound program reaches adults and children at schools and urban and wilderness centers.
"Right from the beginning he felt it needed to be more than a wilderness program. It had to impact the educational system in America, totally," said Miner.
Phebe and Josh Miner came to Andover in 1952, and lived in dorms as Josh Miner worked as a dean of admissions at Phillips Academy. The Miners have five children, and moved into the house on School Street in 1966.
At the end of their meeting, Phebe Miner invited Henrica to stop by again, and gave her a copy of her husband's book, "Outward Bound USA: Crew Not Passengers."
"He would be very pleased to have you have one," she said.